In most functional partnerships in various frontiers of life, there’s someone who is more dominant than the other. Spongebob and Patrick the starfish. Batman and Robin. John Lennon and the Beatles. LeBron James and Dwyane Wade (had to throw that one in for good measure).
As for relationships, friendships and dynamic duos in sports, the list goes on and on.
That was a fundamental problem with the Lakers this past season; Dwight Howard was never satisfied with merely riding shotgun with Kobe.
When Pau Gasol landed in the Lakers’ lap on February 1, 2008, he was a perfect partner for Kobe Bryant. Gasol was, and is, a capable star who functions best as a second banana. He has a minimized ego, always does what is asked of him (even coming off the bench for Earl Clark) and is one of the few players in the league who can absorb Kobe’s demanding style of leadership without being completely turned off.
Bryant and Gasol have had a perfect partnership over the past five years; the proof is in the pudding.
Without Pau, Kobe was staring at a dysfunctional supporting cast who were destined for first or second round exits yearly. There was a time when the Bryant wasn’t as warm to the idea of retiring a Laker, insisting he’d rather play on Pluto at one point before the Spanish big man arrived.
And without Kobe by his side, Pau has a record of 0-16 in the playoffs (including this year’s sweep at the hands of the Spurs).
Two titles and three finals appearances in five years is not too shabby for a “soft Spaniard” and a shooting guard who was once deemed uncoachable by Phil Jackson.
Looking back on it, it’s amazing that Pau Gasol is still a Laker. He was supposed to be a part of the trade that brought Chris Paul to the Lakers before it was called off by David Stern. And ever since then, Pau has been so openly shopped, Mitch Kupchak could’ve just placed him on Wall Street.
They say that opposites attract. There is no better example of that than Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol. One’s sole purpose in life is to put balls through baskets (Kobe) while the other had aspirations of being a doctor before his height gravitated him towards hoops (Pau).
Nevertheless, with the end of every era comes a period of reflection. And while the Kobe and Pau era in Los Angeles is not over quite yet, there is no better time than the offseason to look at some of the moments that they’ve been through as a duo.
Remember the perfect pick-and-roll to seal Game 2 of the 2009 Finals?
How about the touching moments after the final of the 2012 Olympics between Spain and the United States when Pau was congratulating other members of the American team on their gold medal while still hugging Kobe?
Or when Kobe challenged Pau to put his big boy pants on earlier this season in response to Gasol’s inability to adapt to Coach D’Antoni’s offense?
Despite all the trade rumors, Kobe’s always had Pau’s back. This is why when the second chapter of the Dwightmare concluded with his departure to Houston, it was no surprise that Kobe Instagrammed a photo of Gasol and himself with the caption “#Vamos (Let’s go), #Juntos (Together), #LakerCorazon (Laker at Heart) #Vino (Wine).”
In the period between Metta World Peace being amnestied and Jordan Farmar coming back home to Los Angeles, Pau and Kobe were the only members of the 2010 championship winning team that were still with the Lakers in 2013.
Like it or not, we are certainly entering a transitional year for the most successful franchise in professional basketball as we prepare for the shopping spree that is the summer of 2014.
However, I find it only fitting that this era ends with the two players, who were the most prominent faces of this era, featured again as the first and second options.
Vamos, Juntos, LakerCorazon, en la suerte y en la desgracia.
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